With Joel Zumaya already making his mark at the major league level with Detroit Tigers, his brother Richard is trying to follow in big bro's footsteps.
Separated by five years and a day, the Zumayas have been playing baseball their entire lives. When older brother Joel was drafted in the 11th round of the 2002 MLB Draft by the Detroit Tigers, Richard, who was finishing 7th grade at the time, set his sights on doing the same five years later. After a lot of hard work and a little sibling love, he too would be given a chance by the Tigers organization.
"It was a dream come true," said Richard when asked about being drafted in the 43rd round out of high school. Even with multiple offers from colleges to play baseball, Richard decided to get right to work in the minors. "I choose to get my foot inside the door and learn from professional baseball players." Currently with the GCL Tigers, which is the Tigers' rookie-level team, Richard enters games to pitch in relief.
As for the role older brother Joel plays in his brother's progress, let's just say it's been helpful to both players. "He gives me a lot of advice, I talk to him mainly everyday," said Richard. "He talks about my outings, I talk about his outings and we just share a lot of things." Since the two are in the same organization, they have been able to share a unique experience the past two seasons. "This was my second year I was with him during spring training," said Richard. "Just playing on the same team as your brother, it's pretty cool."
Despite both being right-handed, these two pitchers each have a unique style when on the mound. Joel uses his 6' 3" frame to throw a heater that has been clocked at over 100 MPH. As the younger, and three inches shorter brother, Richard is more of an off-speed pitcher with an above average curveball and changeup. "My brother has always been a flamethrower," says Richard. Many believe that is what got Joel to the majors as quickly as he did. The man nicknamed "Zoom-Zoom" also developed a knuckle-curve that is used very effectively to offset his fastball.
It appears as if these two young guns are very comfortable in their own shoes, even early on in their respective careers. "When I first got here I was only 17, I mean I was a pup out of the group," said Richard. "Spring training too, with me being one of the younger guys out here, a lot of the older guys would get on you a little bit." However Richard wasn't the only one who experienced some rookie hazing. "My brother told me he got bullied around a little too, but not in a bad way, just a little team love."
The one thing you don't have to worry about is Richard taking anything for granted. At the age of 19 he understands that he has been put into a position to succeed, but it's not going to come easily. "Not many people can say they play professional baseball for a job. I mean sometimes it can't last forever, but I'm going to work myself to be one of those baseball players that can play for a very long time." Even with the maturity of a veteran, Richard is still a kid at heart, and he couldn't keep a smile off his face as he ended the interview with three simple words. "It's exciting, man."